Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Percy Scholes

Letter No.: 
[January 1922]

13 Cheyne Walk
Chelsea, S.W.

Dear Scholes

Norman O’Neill asks me to send you some notes for my new Symph.
I think the best I can do is to send you a copy of the notes I have made for the programme
Yours sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams

Pastoral Symphony

R. Vaughan Williams

The mood of this Symphony is, as its title suggests, almost entirely quiet and contemplative - there are few fortissimos and few allegros. The only really quick passage is the coda to No.III the 3rd movement - and that is all pianissimo

In form it follows fairly closely the classical pattern, and is in four movements.

I. Moderato

The opening subject is as follows:-

A (music 1)

this leads to a cadence which is frequently referred to later on:-

B (2)

This  is followed by a new figure:-

C (3)

1st First played by the cor-anglais and taken up by the other instruments, which leads in its turn to a new subject in A minor:-

D (4)

Other tributary figures are

E (5)
F (6)

After a cadence in A major a solo violin takes up the principal subject and develops it thus:-

H (7)

There is no full restatement of the principal subject - but C. and D. are recapitulated with but slight variation  and the movement ends with a coda founded on A.

II. Lento Andantino. Commences  with the following theme on the horn:-

8 K (a)

followed by this passage on the strings:-

8 K (b)

This leads to a long melodic passage suggested by the opening subject:-

L 9

There is no definite second subject but its place is taken by a fanfare-like passage on the trumpet (note the use of the true harmonic 7th and 9th only possible when played on the natural trumpet).

M 10

This leads to a resumption of K & L 8 and 9 and the movement ends and at the end of the movement the two principal subjects are heard in combination (clarinet and horn).

III. Moderato pesante

This movement is of the nature of a slow dance and is chiefly founded on the following rhythmical figure:-

11 O

Other subjects in this movement are:-

12 P


l3 Q

The following is the theme of a kind of ‘trio’ in quicker time:-

l4 R

After this the opening recurrs1 followed again by the trio; and the movement ends with a coda (presto and pianissimo) founded on this subject:-

S l5

IV. Lento - Moderato maestoso

This movement starts with this introductory passage, unharmonised except for a drum-roll:-

l6 T.

The principal subject is as follows

l7 U.

given first to the wind & then taken up by the strings.

The middle section of the movement is founded on the introductory passage (T no l6) after which the principal subject returns in shortened form, & the movement ends, as it began, except that the introductory passage (no l6) is accompanied, not by the drum, but by a high note held by the strings.

1. sic, but spelt correctly in transcription in Kennedy, Catalogue of Works.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
General notes: 

The following note is printed in Catalogue of Works, p.93 ff. There are some minor textual discrepancies.
The original is accompanied by a sheet of music paper containing the music examples, originally lettered in sequence by VW but the letters were altered to numbers apparently by Scholes.

Original database number: